tv All In With Chris Hayes MSNBC April 18, 2013 12:00am-1:00am PDT
"waco tribune" is reporting a number of firefighters are missing. that powerful blast measured a 2.1 earthquake. it blew out windows and destroyed a large part of that community. a five-mile radius around that plant has been damaged or destroyed. residents of that area have been evacuated. initially, officials set up a triage area on a field. since that time, all of the injured have been evacuated to nearby hospitals. we have heard from one hospital in waco, who says that their first patients started coming in at 9:00 p.m. local time. one in critical condition. most of the other injuries ranged from minor abrasions to broken bones. they did see some in respiratory distress. officials are asking those in the area to stay indoors because of the risk of potential toxic fumes related to that explosion. initially, there was a
three-mile radium set up of a no-fly zone in the event of a potential second explosion. in addition to making sure that the injured are tended to, officials were going door-to-door to ensure that if there was anyone who was trapped or needed assistance, they were provided that. an eyewitness who lives in that community, reported that she received a text message from someone in triage in a those searches were over. that's one source on the ground. nbc has not officially confirmed that. we have heard from other hospitals in the area that they are treating burn victims, which, of course, would be consistent with the nature of this explosion. now, officials are, of course, monitoring this vision. governor rick perry issued a statement earlier saying they have mobilized state resources to help local authorities. a white house official says the obama administration has been briefed on the situation. they continue monitoring local and state response through the federal emergency management
agency. in addition to tending to those who have been injured, officials are concerned about the possibility of a secondary explosion. a texas state official gave a briefing early this morning and said that, quote, there are still active ingredient there's. and that the fire continued to burn. with active ingredients, we can only assume he means dangerous chemicals that could lead to a secondary explosion. to the force of that blast. it was felt, reportedly, as far as 70 miles away. our own charles hadlock, was 60 miles away at the time. and he felt that explosion. and one official who got an opportunity to survey some of the damage said it was massive. the damage was massive. it looked just like iraq. and looked just like the oklahoma city bombing. that's how severe that damage was. again, residents have been told to evacuate from nearby areas. and those who are in the area who have not evacuated are being
told to stay indoors. in terms of the scope of damage outside of the human toll, there is a significant amount of property damage. 50 to 100 buildings in the surrounding area have been damaged or destroyed. including, in fact, the mayor's own home. his home was destroyed or damaged. west is a small community. it's a farming community of about 2,600 people. you can imagine that 100 homes and buildings in that area comprises a large part of that community. we have some sound from earlier this morning, when texas state official d.l. wilson briefed reporters on the latest that was taking place. let's take a moment to listen to that. >> first of all, our hearts and prayers go to many around here in west. it's a small army community. always open our arms to everybody that passes through here on i-35 and mclennan county
texas. our hearts go out to the unbelievable tragedy tonight. we have the gas company turning the gas off to the area when the explosion happened. firefighters are coming from hundreds of miles away. right now, we are overflowing with help. we do not need more help, as far as that goes. tomorrow morning, the mayor will speak again. right now, we have a tremendous amount of injuries. we do have confirmed fatalities. the number is not current yet. it could go up by the minute. we're in there searching the area right now. making sure it's safe for the other people around there. and the firefight reers are try to be safe and go back in. the wind blowing and changing in the area. it's still smoking and little,
small flames. they don't want to get the firefighters injured in the blast area. i was there. i walked through the blast area. i searched some houses earlier tonight. massive. just like iraq. just like the murray building in oklahoma city. you can imagine what kind of damage we're looking at there. i know there was at least 75 to 50 -- 50 to 75 houses damaged. there's apartment complex that has about 50 units in it, that was completely just a skeleton standing up. a nursing home in the area, 133 people in the nursing home. we got them evacuated. i don't know what their injuries are there right now. but all injuries have been removed from the scene and taken to local hospitals in the waco area. we have numerous agencies helping us, all the way from the dallas/ft. worth area, all
surrounding areas. we had a great turnout to come out to help us get through this tragedy we had in this small community. i wish i could give you more information. all of the injured right now, taken care of. going to do another house-by-house search and see if there's victims we can find. that's going to go on all night. we have a command post set up for law enforcement. a command post set up for the emergency units also. we also have a triage center. >> what's the status of the plant right snow. >> it's still smoldering. they did not give us an update on it. there is still active, ingredients there on the site. we don't want that to explode again. we're worried about people right now, not property. we want people to be safe.
that's our goal right now. get the people safe and get them out of there. >> i do not know right now. it's going to be a number. i can't give you a number right now. there's going to be a number. hopefully at 6:00 a.m. i'll know better. >> early estimates are 50 to 60, 70 maybe? >> i cannot confirm that. i wish i could tell you something. >> firefighters are on fighting the fire right now. it's still smoldering a little bit. they're in the area. they cannot get close to it. toxic fumes coming off the area. >> is there dangerous fumes outside the plant? >> there is. they cleared the area, an eight-block to ten-block area. they moved people in back further. half of that town over there is totally evacuated. what we're worried about now is,
supposed to have an order effective tonight when the wind changes. we might have to evacuate the other side. >> that was d.l. wilson with the texas department of public safety. i want to bring in charles hadlock for more of the story out of west, texas. you brought us information from "the waco tribune." can you tell us what you learned? >> the paper quoted the mayor of west, texas, around 11:00 on wednesday evening. saying that the firefighters had been called to this blaze. the mayor himself is a firefighter. they were attempting to put out a small fire at the time when it exploded. it blew his helmet off his head. it broke all the windows and doors in his home, which is nearby. but he said, worst of all, six to seven firefighters were in the plant at the time. and they have not been accounted
for. >> and we should note that we are awaiting another press conference on this. we're expecting officials to brief reporters shortly on the latest information that they have on this. but, charles, you're there in west, texas. what can you tell us about what you're hearing from local media? whether it's through the radio or local news? what are they saying to people? and what are they reporting about this terrible tragedy? >> pretty much what we've been talking about. we don't know the clear numbers of injured. we don't know the numbers of fataliti fatalities. they're not letting the media into that site, which is understandable. it's a scene of devastation. and the priority is to get the victims out, if there are still victims there. the problem is, the breakdown of information. that's why having the news conferences, as they've been doing every few hours, is very important, the try to get the accurate information out there. >> and just what are you seeing? earlier, you reported that you were still seeing the glow of a fire. has that changed? >> i don't see anything at the
moment. it is very windy here. the smoke is rapidly moving to the north, with the strong south winds. as the state trooper mentioned, we're expecting a very strong cold front through the region in the next few hours. that will shift the winds around from the north and perhaps more evacuations in the southern part of the town, might be needed, if there is still off gassing from this burning plant. >> as you told us, west is a very small community. they would not have the resources to deal with something of this magnitude on their own. do we know where some sof the injured might have been taken? and do we know where some of the help they're getting is coming from? >> yeah. west is a very small town. about 2,800 people. it's situated north of the city of waco. 20 miles north. it's a farming community. that's why they had a fertilizer plant here. there's a hospital here. it was near the plant. they would be overwhelmed of the
hundreds of casualties that were injured in this explosion. we heard that the first ems responders on the scene could not get information out because the cellular towers were also knocked out. when the first air ambulances arrived, they rushed to the helicopters and asked them to relay information. >> charles, i'm going to have to interrupt you. there's a news conference that's just starting. we're going to pick that up. >> a lot of unknowns at this point. my name is sergeant william patrick swanton. the reason i'm here tonight is west has called us to assist. i'm here with trooper d.l. wilson from the department of public safety. he is their p.i.o. for our area. we're here to keep you updated in the events that have occurred so far.
to bring everybody up to speed on what we know and what has happened so far tonight. we know at 6:00 p.m., roughly, our time, there was a fire at the west fertilizer company in downtown west, texas. once that fire started, their fire department responded. numerous firefighters went to the scene to assist in putting that fire out. as they were at the scene, they realized the seriousness of what they had, based on it being a fertilizer plant. we knew that there was ammonia in there. we realized the volatility of that and how explosive it could be. they immediately started doing evacuations of homes, of businesses, trying to get people out of the area. approximately 50 minutes after their response, there was a massive explosion at that fertilizer plant. they were in the process of removing people from homes. a nursing home in the area and also an apartment complex.
i can tell you, from me driving to the scene there, there is quite a bit of devastation in that area. there are victims that were in homes. victims from the nursing home. and there are victims also from an apartment complex. approximately 50-unit apartment complex. some of the photos have been on tv. you see the devastation that's occurred. i can tell you, once they started to trying to clear the injured out, there were a tremendous response from law enforcement agencies, mclennan county sheriff's department, waco p.d., waco fire, mclennan emergency management. and other agencies to assist west at their request. many ambulance companies, medical personnel, also assisted here, as well. and they are still here. still trying to help and get the wounded out. most of the folks that are
wounded are being taken to the abbott area to a local high school. that's where they're being triaged. they're setting that up as a resource center for people to be evaced to because we are evacuating homes in the area, based on the ongoing danger of the fires that were still there. some are still going on. they got most of them under control. they are trying to move people out and get people evacuated out of that area still. i just talked to my commander, who is on the ground there, in the scene. he's telling me that he has seen extreme devastation in homes, in some of the businesses. they are still getting injured folks out. and they are evacuating people from their homes. at this point, we don't know a number that have been killed. i will confirm there have been fatalities. i think we will see those fatalities increase as we get towards the morning.
numerous injuries have been removed from the scene to the hospital. we've taken them into our city limits, into waco, to hillcrest, and providence hospital where they're being treated. hillcrest hospital is our primary trauma care center. the majority of the injured were taken there. the overflow was taken to providence hospital, as well, inside waco. at this time, we are still trying to evacuate some of the homes. we are going house-to-house, business-to-business, and we're seeing quite a bit of devastation in that area. what they're trying to do is move people away, still. they're having to be very cautious because there is structural damage to homes and to businesses. we have to be very cautious because of there being gas lines, gas mains. our utility systems are here. they have entered the area and
are cutting off the main flow of gas, natural gas. they're cutting off power so we don't have secondary fire from electricity sparked fires, things along that line. currently, we're still there. many agencies, we're here assisting west p.d. i can tell you that the mayor has been here earlier tonight. he is also a firefighter for this city. it's taken a toll on him because he knows that potentially he's lost some firefighters. i can confirm that there may be firefighters that are unaccounted for and potentially law enforcement officer, as well. we're trying to determine that. they were on-scene, directing traffic and fighting the fire and helping with evacuation. we don't know a hard number of the fatality count. as soon as we get that, we'll get that information to you. they were pulling people out of some of the homes.
people were trapped. are they still finding them? i don't know. we did find some earlier. they still are going from house-to-house. and my guess is they're going to find some people still trapped. one more time on the question. i know that they have shut areas of utilities and powers off to, not only the immediate blast area, but other areas that they think might be affected or keep from additional injuries or harm from happening. a lot of that is ongoing. and that is a process i will tell you. there has been a tremendous amount of resources and outpouring from community. not only here in west. those of you who don't know west, it's about 2,800 people. they are a very close-knit, tight-knit community here. they have relied heavily on each other tonight for the support that they've got. they have relied heavily on the outpouring of support from
additional agencies in and around the area. i will tell you, we have seen involvement, not only from mclennan county, which is where we are. but we're seeing surrounding agencies from additional counties in and around mclennan county, that are here, as well, helping. there's been a huge outpouring of that. there's a law enforcement command post set up. an incident command post set up. they have hazmat people on scene. they are working with some of the local meteorologists here. we've had strong south winds throughout the night. at some point we're hearing about 7:00 or so in the morning, our winds are going to switch to the north and will continue to be as strong. we're looking at a whole other area that may be affected, once those winds shift. we are still in the process of trying to get people out and get them to help. and also, those that have not been injured, but are affected
by the blast, we're trying to get them somewhere where they're safe for the night. and start to get them with resources. what do you say about the fatalities? >> i cannot confirm that. i don't know who the doctor was that confirmed that. >> i know you have questions. instead of hollering, i'll give you the answers i can. let me call so we don't get too crazy here. yes, sir? they were moving people out of the immediate area. i don't know how far-ranging that was. it's my guess at this point they're trying to keep people from coming in to the area. absolutely for safety reasons because we don't know yet. we haven't been able to assess totally the damage and what potential harm may lay there. yes, sir?
>> i know there was a small contingent of firefighters that went back into the plant, based on there being a fire burning underneath several tanks that they were very concerned about. if those catch or get to a flash point, those would go. and we'd have second or third explosions. they had that fire under control. and i don't think that's a problem. >> we heard the city manager is unaccounted for. can you verify that? >> i can't verify that. the mayor is here. he didn't say anything about that. i cannot verify that. i don't know that, sir. >> a lot of us are going to keep you ask. why did you hesitate to say --
what's going on behind the scenes? >> the abundance of caution in what? >> of not identifying the number. >> because we don't know. we don't know the numbers yet. they're pulling victims out. bringing victims to triage. until we have a good estimate, we don't want to guess. we want to be specific with you and give you facts, not guess. >> i can tell you, when i got here, my first assignment was to go into the immediate area to the command post. they moved me after i got there. but on the way in, i can tell you that i saw homes that were burning. there were homes that had significant devastation, based on windows blown out. bricks pulled off, siding pulled off. some homes were leveled. it was almost tornadic in
effect. one home would be fine. but next to it, extreme devastation. >> at this moment, are more than zero confirmed dead? >> yes. i'm telling you have confirmed fatalities. >> how many? >> i'm not confirming a number. there are confirmed fatalities. >> are the confirmed fatalities from ems? >> ems, fire. let me make sure i'm clear on that. we know fire was there. we know law enforcement was there, assisting with traffic. and i believe there were ems. i have -- i've -- i'll tell you this. but i have not verified. i heard there was a helicopter somewhere on scene. that actually sustained some damage in the blast. i'm working to confirm that, as well. i don't know for sure that's a fact or not. >> any indication of the cause of the fire? >> no. at this point, we don't know.
that is something we'll look at is whether that was a criminal activity. or whether it was just a fire that got sparked from some type of chemical reaction. air quality is a concern. there are people that are well-versed on what that issue may be. they're looking at the weather events going on around us. where the cloud may drift. what potentially is in that cloud. and what may or may not cause harm. that's something they're working on to let us know. we know what's coming. and they have evacpluation plan they're going to broaden based on what we know. >> we don't know. you have to understand this is a downtown area. and when i say downtown area, there are business there's.
there are apartments. a nursing home was there. there are homes in the area. it is going into a mid-sized city and having to search it home-by-home, business-by-business, block-by-block. it is a very tedious process. they have to be extremely careful. the reason, utilities have been shut off. we don't want anyone else injured. stepping on live wires. that's what they're having to be cautious about at this point. >> i know there were numerous people injured at the nursing home. most of those were in the process of being evacuated. i don't have confirmation whether there was actually a kill from the emergency -- one more time. hold up just a second, guys.
i do not. yes, sir? >> how broad is the damage in square blocks? can you give us an estimate on how many structures are levelled? >> i cannot. not probably until morning will we know the true devastation about what occurred. if you haven't seen the video, you saw how -- if you have seen the video, you saw how dramatic the explosion was. it was a huge explosion. and depending on what was around it, what the structures were, the concussion, the effects of the explosion, could be far-ranging. yes, sir? one more time. crosses in the house -- i'm
being told that those are used by the ground teams to clear houses. i don't know the significance of the colors at this point. one more question. i don't know at this point. hopefully in the morning we will be able to give you much more detail on how far-reaching it was. i will get back with you, as we have new information. i will tell you, i appreciate you all being here and waiting for this information. i know you're wanting to get to where maybe you can see more. i ask that you not because it is not safe. i'm telling you, it is not safe for you to go there. please, remain here with us. and as we can, we're coming out and giving you bits and pieces. >> 2:26 local time there in texas. we continue to follow the explosion at a fertilizer plant
in texas. we'll continue, of course, to update you on the latest. we just heart from sergeant william swanson. the items to watch at this moment, based on what he said moments ago. fatalities confirmed. they are still trying to understand the magnitude of those fatalities. injuries, the numbers have varied. 50 to 70. we've heard upwards of 100, depending on the report. looking forward, this is one of the concerns that you heard some of the reporters asking. and that's the issue of hydrous ammonia and the affects it has on the area and those injured. and they're looking at the weather patterns. the reason they're looking at weather patterns is, of course, in fighting the smoldering fires and a possible cloud. you heard sergeant william swanson, moments ago, being careful how to address the issue of hydrous ammonia. there were tanks they were trying to protect early in the
evening. 7:50 p.m. local time. when the tanks exploded, causing this, perhaps, large explosion that we're talking about, that measured 2.1 on the richter scale. were there gases that went up into the air? and how were they going to address the problems that would result from that? if you're just join us on msnbc. breaking news. we're watching what's happening in west, texas, the town of west, texas. 2,800 people. the press briefing, the news briefing we just heard from, as sergeant william swanson was describing to us. a close-knit town. he was from waco. he had come to west, texas, to assist, as many others had from around the surrounding area. and they were saying, they've had enough help from the area, that have arrived to assist. i want to go straight to a piece of sound. this from a young eyewitness and perhaps victim of this
explosion. let's listen to that for a bit. >> i just saw the explosion. and after that, i took off running. and then, i saw the rest home. and people, you know, were buried under the rest home. the rest home was gone. yeah. just evacuating the rest home. helping them, you know, getting the critical ones to the hospital here. >> talk about the nursing home. >> it was gone. the school's gone. the apartments are gone. it's horrible. >> how did you get the scars on your face and the shirt the way it looks? >> i was actually out in front of the intermediate school, right next to the fertilizer plant, across the railroad tracks. me and my friends were looking at the fire. out of nowhere -- i'm sitting in my truck. and, boom. the big explosion. glass went everywhere. as soon as -- i just ran. ran after that. >> so, what are you thinking
right now? what's going on in your head? >> i'm in shock from the whole thing. it's crazy. something you never want to deal with. ever. >> all that is from the glass? >> yes. >> what do you hope to come of all this? >> i just hope that, you know, for everybody that's, you know, in the hospital right now, that hopefully we can pull back together and build up our community again. >> what do you think is the -- talk more about what you saw. the thing that you've seen. you see that the town you once knew. >> just fire everywhere. and just bodies on the ground. bloody bodies. people in panic. firemen, fire trucks, police cars, filled the town. >> and what did you hear and what did you smell? tell me about the senses. >> it smelled, you know, that ammonia. it was fertilizer. you could smell that in the air.
and black smoke. and just a horrible scene. >> there, a young eyewitness describing the horrific scene right after the explosion. and how he was very approximate to where the explosion happened. he was at an intermediate school across the street. charles hadlock remains with us on the ground. charles, you were there listening to sergeant william swanson, as he gave us the latest. just six or seven minutes ago. the questions that were asked of him and if we were to be there, as well, would be what is next? what are they concerned about? for those that are just joining us, the question might be, this ammonia. this anhydrous ammonia, that hugs the ground and can be pushed on. watching the weather patterns, as you were describing earlier. the question is, what will be next? and how will they be dealing
with that danger? >> the good news, richard, is that the plant is on the north side of town. and the winds are from the south. any of the smoke or ammonia fumes that may linger in that area will be blown off to the north. and the winds are very strong, as been reported all night long. it's about 20 miles per hour, gusting to 35. so, that will help break up the cloud out of there. it's hard to tell at night what's going on. but ammonia is a lighter than air. but colorless gas. it's very pungent. you could smell it as soon as you come in contact with it. this is not the first explosion in texas with anhydrous amoan ya. some 66 years ago, there was a tremendous explosion in the port of texas city. a ship called the grand camp caught on fire. and just like today, a lot of
people came out to the docks to watch the fire and watch the firefighters fight the flames. and the grand camp blew up. that explosion killed thousands of people. but it wasn't over. the next day, the fire was burning. airplanes were circling, looking at the damage. and a second ship, "the high flier" blew up. both ships contained anhydrous ammonia. it's a dangerous product. but a necessary product. this is a farming community. and that's why the plant is here. >> charles hadlock. live in west, texas. you're watching msnbc. we'll have more after this. m on.
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we lost all communication because the power went out. the station is damaged. the whole 1500 block of stillmeadow, the closest street to it. my son lives there. he was on the second floor, when he -- the roof would have fallen of him. that whole street is gone. >> dr. smith there, describing the situation, as he was on scene. he was the head of the ems, the emergency response team that was there on the ground. and, charles hadlock, as we look at the pictures just after the explosion, as they were addressing the injured on the ground. blood everywhere. it seems not only on the eyewitness that we had listened to about 15 minutes ago. but also now, this doctor, with blood all over his face. and just give us a sense of some of the injuries described so far today and how they're dealing with them going forward?
>> we haven't been close enough to see it. we saw the aerials of the triage area that was set up on the high school football field. dozens of ambulances from all over the region were there. doctors, nurses, helicopters from dallas and ft. worth and as far away as waco, 20 miles away, all here, assisting the injured. a huge triage area. suddenly, they realized that they're too close to the plant. the plant was still on fire. there were tanks of anhydrous ammonia nearby. it was too dangerous to stay there. they moved the triage to a baseball diamond south of town. and we were told that all of the injured had been evacuated to hospitals nearby in waco. >> and a good thing. we watch some of the pictures from earlier. the winds does not help the fires themselves. does help, when talking about anhydrous ammonia.
dispersing it and bringing it higher up in the area. we will have more on what is happening in west, texas. there, the fertilizer plant that exploded. we continue breaking news coverage right here on msnbc. [ dad ] ah! lily... she pretty much lives in her favorite princess dress. and she's not exactly tidy. even if she gets a stain she'll wear it for a week straight. so i use tide to get out those week old stains and downy to get it fresh and soft. since i'm the one who has to do the laundry. i do what any expert dad would do. i let her play sheriff. i got 20 minutes to life.
dealing with this potential explosion. and then, post-explosion, in understanding how to fight the fires and the homes in the surrounding area. this town of 2,800 people. very close-knit community. and how they would evacuate certain places. now, the challenge here, along the way, was post-explosion. they had skeletons, some were describing them to the size of the 1995 oklahoma city bombing, in terms of the size of buildings and explosion and destruction. some even make the comparison to iraq war scenes. this, after the result of the fertilizer plant explosion. and as many as 75 houses damaged, as well as buildings. reduced to skeletons. this changes. you see the numbers on your screen. approximately 50 to 75 homes in the area damaged. what we're just learning, charles hadlock, who is a
stone's throw from this area, we're looking at video from earlier in the evening, is that, charles, they are still going door-to-door. there was some question. we're now in hour six since this entire incident began. they are still going door-to-door. there was some eyewitness accounts saying they had stopped. there is some concern here. about individuals being trapped or unable to get out of their homes. is there any concern of further explosions. we heard the news briefing. that was initially some of their concerns. charles hadlock, on the phone with us. about a stone's throw, as i was saying a moment ago. charles, are you there? >> the phone is breaking up here, richard. we did hear the spokesman say just a few moments ago, that the threat of further explosions has
diminished. they're concerned about toxic fumes emanating from the plant. as far as the door-to-door searches, watching the actions of the first responders here, i don't get the idea or the feeling that it's as urgent as it was. i think it's a small enough town. there were enough first responders here. they covered the six-block area, door-to-door, what's left of the doors. what's left of the buildings. to determine if there's survivors that may need assistance. i think that portion is overwith for now. just from what i can tell from the activity level here in west. >> we want to get more on the activity level from there in west, texas. the town of west. it's at the quarter hour. if you are just joining us, here on msnbc, breaking news coming out of the town of west, texas. a town of about 2,800 people. the west fertilizer plant there, exploding. then causing confirm eed
fatalities. a confirmed reports that are fatalities. the number of injured, we're looking in the range of up to 100. that number has been fluctuating, depending on who we are hearing from. it happened at 7:50 p.m. local time, when a fire initially started. then, 15 minutes later, according to sergeant william swanson, a spokesperson for the waco police department, he was there, 20 miles away, driving to assist authorities there in the town of west. he said 15 minutes after the report of fire at the fertilizer plant, began the explosion. in that time, they were already beginning evacuations. at this moment, what they're doing is still -- as charles hadlock from nbc is just telling us, they are reporting that they continue to look for those who are in homes. however, that concern has diminished. further explosions, that has
also diminished, according to what we heard from sergeant william swanson in the latest news briefing, about 30 minutes ago. and the other concern, looking forward, at this quarter-hour, to update you, is the winds and how they may shift. you can tell in these pictures from earlier, it was steadily moving along. fanning the flames of those explosions excuse me. the flames that resulted from the explosions early in the evening. it is said to be shifting around 7:00 a.m. local time. now, charles, as we look at the issue of what you're seeing there on the ground, you're saying it looks like diminished activity. as far as it looks to moving people out of homes. how has the evening changed? give us a sense of the arc of the energy and concern over the last six hours. we're six hours post initial
reports of an emergency there. >> i was in claussen, texas, about 60 miles away. and i could feel the explosion. i at least heard it rattle windows. everyone thought it was the approaching thunderstorms that we're anticipating. but when i stepped outside, there were no storms. and the wind really wasn't that strong enough to rattle windows. about 20 minutes later, we learned what it was that caused the windows to rattle. we were on the road to west, texas. got here about 10:30 central time. there were dozens and dozens of first responder vehicles from all over the region here. those are mostly gone now. what is left behind are law enforcement officials, blocking all the intersections leading into the blast zone. they're still protecting that area, not only for search and rescue. but also for the danger of anymore leaking ammonia in this
area. for now, that, as we heard in the briefing just a few moments ago, that concern has diminished somewhat. >> charles, they've been very careful about discussing those numbers, that have been asked so much of them during the briefings. the number of fatalities. the numbers of those injured. of course, there are so many reports about both of those. give us a sense of what has been discussed around fatalities, around injuries. >> you look at the pictures and the timing. it was early evening. 7:45 or so. people were home. people were out at the ballpark. people were not working. they were home, relaxing, having dinner. and suddenly, this huge explosion. so, you've got to imagine looking at all the houses that are destroyed. there must be many casualties connected with that.
we do know, according to "the waco tribune," the mayor, when they spoke to him at 11:15 central time this evening, he was on the scene. he's a volunteer fireman. when the plant blew up, it blew his hat off. it destroyed the windows and doors in his home. worse than that, richard, he was quite e quoted that there were six to seven firefighters inside the plant at the time. so far, they are unaccounted for. >> looking at local news. "the dallas morning news," discussing a report earlier that the environmental protection agency and local public safety officials had looked at. and when they looked at this west fertilizer plant, it -- they said it presented no risk of fire or explosion, according to the documents that "the dallas morning news" was looking at. they also said that the west
fertilizer company reported having as much as 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia on-hand. that in an emergency planning report that facilities are required to present. and it's considered, anhydrous ammonia, as you discussed so well for us, charles, it's a toxic or hazardous chemical. so, they have to put these periodic reports out. but the report, which was looked at by "the dallas morning news," they stated no under fire or explosive risk. they put the word no. it seemed after this report that it looked okay. charles, we're going to have to go for a break. i want to get your response to this report right after we go for a break. again, we're watching what's happening out of west, texas. the town of 2,800. we're going to discuss when we come back, the issue of this report from "the dallas morning news."
all right. back to what's happening. breaking news. in the town of west, texas. charles hadlock and i were talking before the break on the issue of the reports. the report that had come out from the e.p.a., as well as local public safety officials, that was looked at by "the dallas morning news." and, charles hadlock, we had to go to break. you were about to respond what the report had said. they described it in terms to
the question of risk of fire or explosions. what was your thought on what i was saying? >> this is a farming community. and this plant made fertilizer, which is used in the region here. that's why the plant is here. of course, anhydrous ammonia is an important source of nitrogen that's used in fertilize for crops in the region. but the improper handling of anhydrous ammonia can have catastrophic results. it's a stable product. you can buy fertilizer at the local hardware store. but the problem comes when there's fire in a contained area. and there are specific warnings. and firefighters know this. that when fighting a fire with anhydrous ammonia, you do not put water on it. if it's in a contained area. and that can have catastrophic results, like what happened in texas city 66 years ago. and possibly what happened here
last night. >> we were listening together to sergeant william swanson, from the waco police department, who is in the town of west to assist them. and he was saying, there at 7:50, about six hours ago, their concern were the very containers that were holding this anhydrous ammonia. and under these sorts of concentrations, when they're placed in these containers, is when the danger is the most. >> exactly. >> that's what they were trying to fight earlier on. wasn't it? and then, he described it as, well, a lost battle. >> yeah. i was listening to the scanner traffic. a replay of the scanner traffic when the initial explosion happened. they were calling in extra fire crews from as far away as waco. and ambulances anywhere they could get them because they knew they had a catastrophic scene. and you heard one fire captain get on and yell from everyone to stay away from the plant. do not put water on the plant. he recognized right away that if
ammonia nitrate you don't put water on it. that was a smart move. and now, they've backed off and let the fire cool down a bit before trying to go in. that was a smart thing to do. >> you know, charles, as the reporting has been, and you described a moment ago, they should not mix water in the firefighting process with anhydrous ammonia because it actually warms the product, causing it to turn into vapor cloud. >> right. >> the report also saying, though, that the worst possible scenario in the case of this particular fertilizer plant would be a ten-minute release of ammonia gas. however, the report also said, according to "the dallas morning news," that it would kill or injure no one. that would be the worst-case scenario. a ten-minute release of ammonia, that it would kill or injure no
one in this report. that does not necessarily mean that's consistent with the concerns we've seen today. it also said that the second-worst possibility was a leak from a broken hose used to transfer the product. this is a farming community. a town of 2,800 people. they know each other well. and this is a place they would use the product frequently. when you have from what you have seen on the ground, what has been the discussion about this fertilizer plant? the people that have worked there, how they, the employees themselves, are residents of this town that was now evacuated. the 50 to 75 homes so far? >> i haven't talked to anybody about the plant. but i have been reading the quotes that the local nbc affiliate has collected and what i've been reading from other reports.